I stayed up until about 4am this morning watching the Nigeria vs Australia game to see D’Tigers lose in a blow-out 108-69 against the Aussies and I have one or two observations from the game.
Like I said elsewhere, despite the victories against USA (world no.1) and Argentina (world no.4) we are still rank outsiders in the realistic push for a podium finish.
What the two earlier victories did was to put Australia on their guard, study our game and formulate a robust response.
Yea, Australia had a reason to pay us particular attention apart from this morning’s game. We are in the same group with the Boomers at the Olympics. Infact, they are our first opponent when the games begin.
And despite resting four of their regular starters, Australia raced to a 49-29 lead at the break. The lead got bigger after half-time, with any chance of a Nigerian comeback immediately put to bed as Australia’s lead extended to 26 points. They eventually closed out the game with a 39-point margin.
To be honest, at times it felt like Australia, who are undefeated in all three exhibition games as they prepare for the Olympics, couldn’t miss as they sunk 18 threes on just 29 attempts, while nullifying Nigeria on the other end.
What the loss to Australia has shown is that Nigerians should temper their expectations from D’Tigers. After the back-to-back wins over USA and Argentina, some over enthusiastic fans were already projecting not only a podium finish but a first Olympic basketball gold for Africa. They already drew parallels with how the football team won a first football gold 25 years ago in Atlanta.
Secondly, the team itself was brought back to earth by the crushing defeat. Like the fans, probably the team approached the game with a chip on their shoulders feeling like the Olympic gold medal was already in the bag.
Even coach Mike Brown admitted as much when he said:
“For us tonight, we thought we were going to be able walk in here and take it to these guys. But these guys can play.”
Yes, Australia can play and the earlier D’Tigers take that on-board in their preparations the better for us all.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Australia studied Nigeria and deployed a counter-tactics that worked to perfection.
Nigeria’s strength relied mostly on fast offensive breaks with players who probably had three-pointers shot into their veins. They used this to devastating effect against the USA but with qualified success against Argentina
D’Tigers scored 90 points against the United States and 94 against Argentina. The Australians, who tallied 10 steals and four blocks, held them to just 69 in a display that shackled Nigeria’s biggest weapon.
If there’s one thing the team and the fans would take away from this loss, it is that if Nigeria must win a first basketball medal for Africa, then D’Tigers must be ready to sweat blood and gore for it.